A realistic look at living and loving in the context of mental illness by an #ownvoices author that doesn’t lose sight of...

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A TINY PIECE OF SOMETHING GREATER

The Florida Keys provide the setting for love between a laid-back Brazilian dive instructor and a Wisconsin-bred trainee with secrets behind his ice-blue eyes.

Joaquim Oliveira, single-minded yet calm, left his loving family in São Paulo to work on his master scuba diver trainer license in Florida. The unpaid internship leaves him almost no time for fun, but when tattooed and pierced newcomer Reid Watsford signs up for classes, all bets are off. Reid just moved down from Eau Claire to look after his grandmother’s empty beachfront condo, and himself. After years of struggling with a rare mental illness and a family that couldn’t, or wouldn’t, fully support him, Reid is starting over. He's slowly learning how to cope with his rapid mood cycling and anxiety after years of self-injurious behavior and a suicide attempt, and the sunshine and sand of the Keys might be just what he needs. Reid doesn’t anticipate falling in love with Joaquim or the way his new situation might require new tools for managing his symptoms. While Reid’s cyclothymia is the focus, sometimes overly so, of this lightly plotted novel, Sierra (Idlewild, 2016) makes time for a series of warm and sexy encounters—a boozy beach party, a midnight swim, a dinner out, and, of course, scuba diving—any romance reader will appreciate. Joaquim is less well-developed, but his self-image as “chill” does take a hit when Reid’s defenses and irritability get under his skin. But now that he has experienced the difference between passive contentment and active happiness, Joaquim is not letting go. While the complexity and fragility of the coral ecosystem serve as obvious metaphors for Joaquim and Reid’s relationship, Sierra’s gentle invoking of the subtropical setting brings her characters to life, as when Reid tries to “transform the rasping cicada song into calm white noise.”

A realistic look at living and loving in the context of mental illness by an #ownvoices author that doesn’t lose sight of the romance.

Pub Date: May 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945053-60-3

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Interlude Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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